Summer goals 2019

In years past, as the days get hotter, I get excited about grilling all sorts of adventurous things (and then usually don’t), bedtimes extend until the sun sets later and later and we think about all the events we should schedule over the next few months while maintaining a steady stream of downtime, I have often turned to making a list of summer goals, at once whimsical and logical. Some about getting things done, some about ensuring I make time for fun, superfluous experiences.

I’ve skipped it in recent years, not on purpose, but probably because there was a lot going on, I was immersed in other, different sets of goals, or just that summer was already coursing full blast through our systems and our non-air-conditioned rooms before I really thought about it.

This year, though, my household is going through a very goal-y period, and I started thinking about making a list again. Gabe’s joined J in his love of birding and the two of them are trying to get us all to do a “big month,” seeing as many species as we can throughout June (don’t tell them but I’m not sure I can convince myself to take on this endeavor). Both older kids proclaimed they want to read 50 books this summer (50?! what?!) and we’ve already put a number of items on the calendar: trips and concerts, a family wedding and get togethers with friends, all of which I’m really looking forward to, prompting me to think about the possibilities attached to each one. Because as I’ve said before, when you’re making a list like this - for fun - it’s ok to put stuff you already know you’re going to do. I mean, with “finish Ulysses” a contender for years now, I need a little headstart on this thing.

I started thinking up ideas immediately. Food I’ve been craving made me want to visit the Long Wharf taco trucks (again) and make a date to get dim sum some weekend afternoon. The fact that Nora tends to be far less picky when she helps me cook prompted me to think about doing it with her more often (while Gabe suggested the goal about he and I making an exciting meal together, as he loves coming up with inventive and sometimes questionable culinary creations). I decided to reach and put “meditate every day” even though…every day!? good luck!…because “Wherever You Go There You Are” had such a big impact on me but I’ve let the impact slide, and put the goal about exercising, which I’m not doing as much as I’d like, but added the “most,” because while I really do feel better when I start the day with some - any - movement, hey, it’s summer. Visit Canada and see live music outside because those are some of those already-planned items, but it still feels good to put them down in writing; something to look forward to, and plan. Some I’ll complete and some probably not, but I’ll have a guide to look to when a few free hours present themselves.

Make rice krispies treats with the kids because - hold up - I have never made rice krispies treats with my kids before. Please be gentle in your judgment of this oversight.

That last one especially made me think about the strangeness of coming up with goals like this when there are so many serious issues to fight and consider in the world. Not that the world has ever been a completely sane place but…make rice krispies treats? Seriously? When there are cultural and political problems that seem so insurmountable, but could obviously use some surmounting on my part?

And I guess my answer - although I feel I lack the proper words to say it gracefully - is…yeah. Work towards a better world, and make marshmallow concoctions with my children. Look for the goodness everywhere and look for it right in front of you.

However, I did also decide to put a few more serious goals on the list with this in mind. I wish I could be the kind of person who simply does these more serious things as part of her nature, but the truth is I’m much more likely to take part in a march or rally - something I believe is important and meaningful - if I make a point of saying out loud that I want to do it.

That’s what it’s all about really: saying out loud that I want to do it, to all of you, so you can hold me accountable. And maybe (please?!) so you can come along for some of the ride.

  1. pick fruit at a farm

  2. drink a local beer in Rhode Island

  3. learn to sail (at least a little)

  4. take a trip to Canada

  5. have ice cream at Wentworth in Hamden

  6. visit the Long Wharf taco trucks

  7. read a book about climate change

  8. eat lobster with an old friend

  9. hear live music outside

  10. meditate every day

  11. jump in the ocean

  12. cook with Nora

  13. exercise (most) weekdays

  14. go on a stroll through Boothbay Harbor like my dad used to do

  15. work on a book of essays

  16. declutter the attic

  17. plan and make an exciting meal with Gabe

  18. attend a rally or march

  19. get dim sum

  20. run the New Haven road race

  21. walk on the rocks with Maisie

  22. make rice krispies treats with my kids

  23. have an ice cold martini with J

  24. get the podcast going (KATE!)

  25. grill something adventurous

  26. paint the front door a different color

  27. finish “Ulysses”

From the closet, with wine

A few weeks ago I decided to do something that was a not particularly great idea, and that was take my two youngest children - Gabe who is 8, and Aidy who is 4 - to the grocery store around 5 pm, the approximate hour that their inner demons spill out onto full display; when they are willing to slash eachother’s throats for no reason and deliver me, their innocent mother, to the gates of hell without a single regret because they are so hungry and I, evildoer that I am, have no immediate snack to proffer. So hungry that no one has ever conceived of such hunger and never will because, in fact, the intensity of the feeling has not historically been felt before by the human species. This, despite starving people in compromised nations. This, despite the regular size blueberry muffins they consumed just 40 minutes prior. Regular size, not even the mini ones, because I knew of their dire situation, having not eaten since one-and-a-half hours before during afternoon snack.

(Yeah, I know. French children and raising mannerly kids and etc. But they hold it together during school so if they’re going to take it out on someone I am grateful it’s me. Also, this is not one of those blog posts where I explain how I know I don’t have it that bad or could do better, because I am not particularly feeling that at this juncture).

I took them to the store - briefly, to buy just a few items - where there was plentiful post-season Easter candy on display and elderly people who didn’t think getting run over by a wayward preschooler with a sparkly headband was at all cute. They spent the 30 seconds I was looking at the coffee selection trying to stomp on eachother’s feet as hard as possible, and touched like 400 of the 500 KinderJoy eggs sitting right there at the checkout - placed strategically to ruin parents’ lives - as though their proximity to and aggressive handling of them would persuade a purchase. Which it did not.

Gabe and Aidy…they don’t really like eachother. I don’t say this with sadness, because I firmly believe that time will make them closer, and I can already see the glimmer of a slow-but-sure not-exactly-friends-but-not-as-serious-enemies situation forming between them now that Aidy is getting a little bigger. She’s a much more physical child than Nora, Gabe’s OG playmate, and admiringly follows her big brother around as he teaches her things like how to get the most lift jumping off a living room armchair. I allow it because it’s preferable to simmering resentment.

But they are also such different personalities. Gabe is an introvert and problem-solver, a lover of puzzles and word games. Aidy is an extreme extrovert who can’t pass a stranger without telling a story and sometimes deliver unexpected hand holding and other symbols of her affection (which we are having some conversations about because, “not everybody wants a thigh massage, Aidy.”)

I told J recently that Aidy reminds me of how I feel when I’m sitting at a bar and have had a martini and there are all these people to talk to and if I can’t talk to them I might die. I don’t know what it is, this urgent need to connect, to learn all the life stories, whether or not the subjects in question are in the mood to hand them over. This is how Aidy is all the time, though. 24/7.

I think shortly after she was born (that event in itself a questionable family decision in my middle child’s opinion) and it became clear that her personality was, you know, rather in-your-face, Gabe was like, “Oh hell no. This is not what I signed up for. I signed up for peace and quiet and following the spoken and unspoken rules and definitely not a wild and tiny human who climbs into my bed with me when I’m trying to fall asleep and sings ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and then tells me about her day in toddler-speak, for the love of god” (which is, by the way, what he got when Nora moved into her own room at our old place and Gabe and Aidy, by necessity, became roommates, although they each have their own bedrooms now, thankfully).

Anyway, the point is that they fight more vehemently and persistently than Gabe and Nora ever did (more creatively, too. The other day Aidy told Gabe that he was a “stinky diaper” and she was going to “wear him”). By the end of that grocery trip they were at eachother’s throats, literally, and I was pretty much done being a parent, not literally but almost. When we got home, there was complaining about dinner and general insanity surrounding bedtime, and J was just as overwhelmed as I was.

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None of this is abnormal, but on that day it felt too normal, if that makes sense. Like I needed a true break if I was going to remain in this house and look after these people for the foreseeable future. So I took a glass of wine and went into my bedroom closet. This was, I realize, a banal act representative of stereotypical motherhood. The type of stuff glorified on parenting blogs and in memes. It was not original or clever that I retreated to a space that had a door with a glass of alcohol. But I’d never really done it before and I wanna tell you guys something: everybody knew I was in there, and for some reason the seriousness of the measure - the novelty of it - communicated that I meant business. They left me alone. I mean, maybe J told them to leave me alone, taking the hint when I shouted “I’m going into the closet with my wine, leave me alone!” (thank you, J) but whatever the case, they did it.

I sat in there in that space (a space that is not that big by the way, but has a nice, round window) with my clothes and handbags and this total sense of myself, surrounded by things that belong to me alone, and thought about the various annoyances this life has to offer, and I eventually started to feel better. Capable again.

Best yet, I became aware that should I not feel capable in the future, I could come back. This bar was always open, and very convienient, although, unfortunately, there were no people to talk to when I got the urge. That’s why, once I was sitting there for a bit, I went to get my computer and started writing this post, which I’m just finishing now. I have my closet, and I have wine, and I have all of you. Next time, let’s do it in person.